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Living cheap on a sailboat

Are you planning to live on a sailboat but confused as to how to plan your budget? Well, you have landed at just the right place. Through this article, we intend to tell you how you can live cheaply on a sailboat.

How much does it cost to live on a sailboat?

This is the biggest question that arises when you are thinking of hopping onto a sailboat and spending good quality time peacefully without having to worry about the costs. In this article, we are going to discuss a few things that will help you understand how you can plan your budget wisely.

Cost of living on a boat

There are a lot of expenses that you will be exposed to when you start living on a sailboat. Some of these expenses include the mortgage payment of the boat, the slip fees, food and water that you will require throughout your stay, cost of fuel, as we will be discussing in detail later in this article, boat insurance, etc. If you want to control your expenses, the best way in our opinion to do so is by making a budget chart. This will help you keep track of all the expenses that you are making. You can make the budget chart depending on the size of the vessel that your boat has in order to calculate the fuel that you will need during your stay on the sailboat and the entire duration of your stay.

You will also be spending quite some money on boat insurance as it is as expensive as house insurance. Then comes the cost of maintenance for the boats, which again is an expensive affair.

1.    Maintenance

If you are planning to live on a sailboat, the first thing while making the budget and preparing the cost analysis is to set aside a good amount for maintenance. While you are in the middle of the sea, there will be instances where the sailboat will require maintenance. Now maintenance is one thing that neither you can avoid, nor can you cut down. This is the reason why the maintenance costs take up a majority share of your overall budget.

Time and again, you will be required to fix the broken things, and you will need to buy tools, spare parts, cleaners, etc. There will be days when you will not be need any of these. However, you cannot do without them, and it is imperative to buy each item before you start sailing. Therefore, in light of all these requirements, we highly suggest you keep at least 40-45% of your overall budget to buy the stuff for maintenance and other related work.

In order for the boat to sail properly without any problem, you would require the help of an electrician, plumber, seamstress, mechanic, etc., and since you cannot do without any of them, they charge you with a free hand. Hence, if you are extremely tight on your budget, we suggest you learn all these things on your own so that you can save some money there. Moreover, it is a different and interesting experience on its own, where you will have to be the master of your own boat and make it float without any technical difficulties or system breakage.

2.    Fuel

When you are living on a boat, fuel is something that you will always need and will be required to keep a check on every single day. In order to sail the boat without getting low on fuel, you will require diesel, propane, and gas in huge quantities. Now we understand that this can get quite expensive, hence, we will write down certain tips for you which will help you maximize the efficiency of your fuel usage.

  1. Diesel
  2. We suggest you to not put yourselves on schedules. This is because it causes a hurry, and you tend to put more pressure on the engine which then requires more diesel.
  3. Additionally, we suggest you run only on a single engine. That would decrease the speed of your boat but will give you more time to enjoy the water and also save a lot of fuel. This is because a dual engine requires more diesel to run as compared to a single engine.
  4. Lastly, we suggest you choose a time for your departure when the expectancy of the current is on a rise. This will help you save a lot of time as the boat will be able to sail along with the current, and this will even save you a lot of diesel.
  5. Propane
  6. We suggest you use an electric kettle if you want to heat the water, or you can even use the shore power.
  7. If you have hot water from the engine, you can use even that to get it boiling.
  8. If you say you are cooking something like pasta or noodles, try to use very little water in which the pasta/ noodles soak. You can turn off the propane and let the pasta/ noodles cook in boiling hot water after you switch the propane off.
  9. Lastly, we highly suggest you buy only quality cookware. This will help you cook the food and keep it warm even after you have switched the propane off, as the steam will be trapped inside the pot. This is also very helpful when you are coming into an anchorage.
  10. Gas

If you are making a short trip to the shore, then you can always do some kayaking as paddling does not require any fuel.

3.    Boat Insurance

If you are new to the sailing world, you will most probably get a license which will be valid only for a limited time period. Now, spending money to get a boat insurance as we have mentioned above can be a costly affair. However, this is something that is unavoidable.

4.    Liveaboard Sailboats

Generally speaking, if you have done basic research on living in a sailboat, you must have noticed that a perfectly operational sailboat that is clean can easily cost you around $10,000 to $40,000. In our experience, we have come across some very affordable sailboats that will not only help you have a smooth and safe journey but also help you reduce your living costs. There are certain sailboats in the market that have a full-time option for accommodation and can be found for less than $ 20,000. This is a very affordable and pocket-friendly deal as compared to a lot of other alternatives where you will have to splurge a lot of money to get the sailboat in perfect working condition and then to live on it.

Now the question that pops up in your mind is what constitutes a livable, good sailboat?

Well, the answer to this question is very subjective. However, there are certain thresholds that are used to determine if the boat is suitable for you to become a full-time resident. Just like you find a house on the land, you first prioritize comfort and budget while selecting the perfect sailboat for you.

5.    Size of the sailboat

This is important from the cost of living perspective. The larger the sailboat is, the bigger the engine will be to support its functioning. If you are planning to live alone on the sailboat, you can even consider getting a smaller sailboat for yourself. An ideal liveaboard sailboat is usually between 20-35 feet in terms of its length. A few sailboats that we think are the best in terms of their features, size and cost of living are Cataline 25, Catalina 30, Cal 28, Aloha 28, Catalina 34, and Tartan 34 C.

6.    Marina Expenses

If you plan to take a halt during the winters or any other season, you can take a spot at the marina. This will surely save a lot of your costs when it comes to fuel and maintenance. This is because a standing sailboat requires no fuel or maintenance. However, when you take a spot at the marina, it will charge you money. Therefore, the cost of fuel comes down, but the cost of the marina rises. Despite this, you will still be saving a lot of money if you park your sailboat at the marina for a few days, as the cost of the marina is still less than the cost of maintenance and fuel combined.

Most of the marinas charge you by the foot, which means the size of the sailboat. However, there are certain exceptions to that, like if you want to park your sailboat in the public docks. Here, the pricing is at a flat rate. Now, there are also marinas that measure differently. This entirely depends on which marina you choose to mark your sailboat. Usually, they measure the length at the waterline (LWL), length of the hull (LOH), length on the deck (LOD), or the length overall (LOA). When the cost is calculated for the marinas, they charge you extra for the electricity you will use. The cost of electricity will vary depending on the marina.

7.    All other necessities

Now this includes all the basic things that you would be required to carry with you when you hop on to a sailboat. This includes drinking water, money for electricity, marina fees, paper charts, courtesy flags, and the other small things you will need to refill throughout your journey in the water.

If you are new to the sailing world, we suggest you against sailing in the water during the winter season. This is because the expenses increase tremendously when you sail during the winter because there is an increased requirement of the fuel and more pressure on the engine. In addition, you will use more power and fuel to keep yourselves warm. Moreover, it requires some expertise if you plan to sail through the winter season because of the extremely cold weather conditions, especially in the water.

Final Thoughts

If you are new to the sailing world, you cannot expect yourself to keep the expenses under control. It will surely take some time for you to take control of things. If you are hoping to travel for long on the sailboat, then you will be required to give yourself some time to learn, prepare, maintain, cook, operate, and do other basic things for the boat to keep moving. Once you get the hang of things and you have spent some time in the water, you will be able to manage your expenses well and will be able to reduce them as well.

Moreover, it will be best if you can get in touch with other sailors who have axperience to learn from their experience. They can guide you in many ways in terms of how to operate the boat, cut expenses and manage your budget well.

Lastly, we want to add that if you manage and plan well, you can surely cut down on your expenses to stay on a sailboat. However, there are certain things on which you will have to spend, and that cannot be avoided. Therefore, it is always best to research well before going on these adventurous trips as it will give you an idea as to how things work and what you will be required to do.

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